By Jessica Riegel, Associate at Cause Strategy Partners, LLC
Cause Strategy Partners is thrilled to launch BoardLeader Spotlight, where we highlight the incredible work our BoardLeaders are doing with our nonprofit partners. BoardLead strengthens social good organizations by recruiting, placing, training and supporting talented professionals from top companies for high-impact board service.
Meet BoardLeader Katarzyna Bednarowicz
Or you can call her Kasia for short. Kasia is an Account Executive at Google and BoardLeader at PowerPlay, which is a New York City nonprofit dedicated to inspiring and educating girls through sports and academic enrichment programs. While great board members can make an impact in many different ways, Kasia specifically sees her value as a “connector” with her company and is excited about jumpstarting a new volunteer effort that turns Google colleagues into PowerPlay mentors. Below is my exciting interview with her!
Kasia sees her value as a “connector” with her company and is excited about jumpstarting a new volunteer effort that turns Google colleagues into PowerPlay mentors.
Before learning about BoardLead, had you considered serving on a nonprofit board? Why did you choose to do so through BoardLead?
Kasia: I had been thinking of getting involved with a non-profit for a while, but as a full-time professional, I found it difficult to research the opportunities available. It is not always clear whether organizations actually need expertise and guidance from experienced professionals. It is not like these opportunities are growing on trees.
BoardLead bridges this gap by bringing corporate and nonprofit worlds together, highlighting the right opportunities for candidates. The application process is well-managed, which saves time and energy for both sides: resource-constrained nonprofits and busy professionals from the private sector. The matching system provided was very convenient and enabled me to find a strong fit. PowerPlay NYC represents all I believe in: “ambitious goals, persistence, dedication and passion for what you do, go a long way!”
Out of the 20 BoardLead partner organizations you could select, what about PowerPlay stood out to you?
Kasia: PowerPlay is a unique organization with a mission statement that truly represents my personal beliefs. It empowers young females of NYC to grow physically and emotionally through sports and prepares them for their future careers. As a former athlete and a passionate runner and mountaineer, sports have always played an important role in my life. I believe in stretching myself outside of the comfort zone in order to grow. Sports helps girls learn how to set goals, deal with the setbacks and shapes persistence to follow through. PowerPlay teaches all these things to nearly 2,000 underprivileged girls across the five boroughs.
I love the responsibility that comes with the board membership. It’s extremely encouraging to have the direct impact on so many lives and to see how these girls develop over time with PowerPlay’s support. Throughout their journey, they grow their self-esteem, learn to stand up for themselves, develop strong leadership skills, and feel empowered to continue their education and achieve the career of their dreams.
Can you describe your first interaction with the PowerPlay staff, board and/or participants?
Kasia: It was a series of telephone interviews with the PowerPlay board members and the board chair. The best part of the interview process was the opportunity to see how the organization operates by visiting one of the workshops of the flagship program, called “SuperStar Leadership Academy,” this summer.
I met the girls at the rowing workshop in Queens. It was great to see them learning a new skill and talk to them about what this organization means to them. This gave me first-hand experience of what PowerPlay NYC does for these girls. I could also meet some of the PowerPlay employees.
Can you tell me about the initiatives you’ve worked on so far as a BoardLeader?
Kasia: I believe that I maximize my impact by connecting PowerPlay NYC with Google resources, inspiring my coworkers and friends to get involved too. The first initiative launched since I joined the board was a mentorship program supporting girls in their final year before the college. We paired them up with Googlers. They meet monthly to exchange ideas, get career advice, and have some fun. Mentees become more strategic about their future and Googlers learn and improve their mentorship skills. This is a true win-win. The demand exceeded my expectations with over 30 active mentors today. Another project is a half-day event at Google for 50 girls from Brooklyn. We want to inspire them to get involved in computer science.
It’s great to be part of this board and share the steering wheel with these passionate people to create a better future for so many girls. I see myself as a connector between Google and PowerPlay. I want to create as many long-term projects between these organizations as possible, as there is a huge value of this collaboration for both sides.
I see myself as a connector between Google and PowerPlay. I want to create as many long-term projects between these organizations as possible, as there is a huge value of this collaboration for both sides.
How has your board service experience so far impacted other areas of your life, work, or otherwise?
Kasia: Launching the Mentors Program has already had some positive outcomes. I am astonished by how much impact I have had since joining PowerPlay and by how my ideas create positive change in local communities. Mentorship program impacts positively lives of mentees and their mentors and we hear so much positive feedback from both sides.
Through board service, I have expanded my network within Google and met like-minded colleagues. I connected with people who want to get involved and gained lots of inspiration for the future projects. I truly believe the more I lean into this opportunity, the more I can get out of it.
I have some Googlers who recently approached me to do another project with PowerPlay. Google cares deeply about diversity and works hard to increase the number of females in the technology industry. When you start serving on a board, you become so much more aware and smarter about the possibilities around you and how to seize them best to create the most value for both organizations. I was able to expand my network within Google and meet like-minded colleagues. I connected with people who want to get involved and gained lots of inspiration for future projects. I truly believe the more I lean into this opportunity, the more I can get out of it.
I truly believe the more I lean into this opportunity, the more I can get out of it.
You are just starting your board service journey. Where do you see it headed in the next few years?
Kasia: I try not to plan all too far in advance and enjoy the current experience. I have been in sales for about 8 years, so I have started to think about my next steps. I feel that at some point I would like to leave the corporate world and try to have more impact in the nonprofit space, either by joining Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, or get involved in some nonprofit. Joining the board of PowerPlay NYC gives me a first-hand experience and helps me to test the waters and see if this is something I could imagine doing full-time.
What advice would you give to other young professionals considering nonprofit board service?
Kasia: Think about what is important to you and what kind of cause you really feel passionate about and just try it! Thinking about the causes that matters to you will help you pick the right organization. I met many people in the last year to get informal advice from different nonprofits, just to understand what the role is and what are the daily responsibilities. However, there is nothing better and more insightful than hands-on experience. That’s why I’m so glad I came across BoardLead, and so grateful for what your organization is doing. Your matching system, bringing the professionals together with nonprofits, together truly changed my life!
Want to learn more about BoardLead?
Are you inspired to explore board service like Kasia? Or simply curious about what great service looks like? Visit our website to learn more about BoardLead and our other programs. Be sure to check out The CauseKit, our blog, for news, advice and insights from the social good space. You can also stay in the loop about our partners and see what other BoardLeaders are up to by following us @WeAreBoardLead and @CauseStrategy.